Rubio Defends Immigration Policy That Would Have Shut Out His Parents

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday night defended his proposal that the United States legally accept immigrants based on their skill level when asked during an MSNBC town hall whether his policies would have admitted his own parents into the country in the 1950s.

During the town hall moderated by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, an audience member asked Rubio, “If you were to institute your merit-based immigration policy, wouldn’t you be shutting out people like your parents?”

“Yeah, well, you wouldn’t shut them out, but it’s a different process, no doubt. My parents came in 1956. The world is a different place from 1956,” Rubio said in response. “When my parents arrived in the U.S. in 1956, my dad had a fourth-grade education, maybe. My mom had about the same. If they came today under those circumstances, they would really struggle to succeed.”

Rubio said that his parents would struggled to find a job in the U.S. now if they had just arrived in the country. He argued that the country should “always change policies when times change,” including regarding immigration.

“And so, today in the 21st century, the immigration policy has to be primarily based on merit. That doesn’t mean everyone’s a PhD. It does mean that before you come in you should be able to prove what skills are you going to be able to bring to the U.S.,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be a family-based component to it — there will be. But the priority and the base of the system needs to be merit-based.”

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